snopes.com  


Go Back   snopes.com > Urban Legends > Automobiles

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 01 February 2013, 02:24 AM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 109,650
Police Police tap cars during traffic stops?

Comment: I've heard that when police make traffic stops, they often tap or press a hand against the rear of the car (taillight or trunk) as they approach the vehicle from behind. I've also heard several explanations for why they do this:

a) They're leaving fingerprints behind to document their contact with the vehicle in case the perpetrators take off or abduct the officer.

b) They're pushing down on the trunk to ensure it's latched so that no one attacks them by popping out of it.

c) They're trying to startle the vehicle's occupants to hinder their efforts at hiding any incriminating evidence.

So do police actually do this? If so, why?
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 01 February 2013, 02:41 AM
crocoduck_hunter's Avatar
crocoduck_hunter crocoduck_hunter is offline
 
Join Date: 27 May 2009
Location: Roseburg, OR
Posts: 12,737
Default

I've been pulled over twice and neither time did the police officer actually do that.

Though I don't think that they'd be worried about someone popping out the trunk of my hatchback.

Seriously though, whoever came up with that idea has watched too many Trunk Monkey commercials. One: it'd be freaking obvious if a car was driving along with its trunk open, and two: that wouldn't really do anything since practically every car these days has a button that the driver can use to open the trunk anyway (and there's also some cars that have levers inside the trunk that open the trunk in order to prevent someone from becoming trapped in the trunk).
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 01 February 2013, 02:46 AM
diddy diddy is offline
 
Join Date: 07 March 2004
Location: Plymouth, MN
Posts: 10,928
Default

The several times I have been pulled over for various offensives (don't ask) I have never seen cops do this. None of the above makes sense:

1) Generally they don't need to document contact with a vehicle. Their tickets are carbon copies and they document plate number - they also have cameras to record pull-overs.

2) Who keeps people hidden in the trunk on the off chance that they get pulled over? And if your trunk isn't closed it will open on the road.

3) I would think that flashing lights would be enough to startle vehicle occupants and even before then it would be too late since they observe people once pulled over. Cops aren't dumb. If they suspect somebody they act.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 01 February 2013, 02:54 AM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 109,650
Driver

Quote:
it'd be freaking obvious if a car was driving along with its trunk open
A trunk lid can be unlatched without being open, especially if something else (such as a bungee cord) is being used to hold it closed.

Quote:
Generally they don't need to document contact with a vehicle. Their tickets are carbon copies and they document plate number
But not if the occupants of the pulled-over car drive off or attack the officer before he can write the ticket.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 01 February 2013, 03:06 AM
diddy diddy is offline
 
Join Date: 07 March 2004
Location: Plymouth, MN
Posts: 10,928
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
But not if the occupants of the pulled-over car drive off or attack the officer before he can write the ticket.
Which is why I mentioned cameras - though they might not be universal. But I would think that before they actually talk with the driver they do the basics like get a plate number in case they do drive off...
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 01 February 2013, 04:06 AM
Dasla's Avatar
Dasla Dasla is offline
 
Join Date: 15 April 2010
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Posts: 3,679
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by diddy View Post
Which is why I mentioned cameras - though they might not be universal. But I would think that before they actually talk with the driver they do the basics like get a plate number in case they do drive off...
Yeah, finding a car with that number plate is easier then pulling over every car of that make, model and number to dust it for prints it.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 01 February 2013, 04:11 AM
hoitoider's Avatar
hoitoider hoitoider is offline
 
Join Date: 22 October 2001
Location: Beaufort, SC
Posts: 5,999
Default

I thought it's standard procedure now for the police to run the plate numbers before they ever get out of their car. If the pulled car is stolen or the owner has outstanding warrants it helps to know ahead of time that it's going to be a dangerous situation.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 01 February 2013, 04:16 AM
Dasla's Avatar
Dasla Dasla is offline
 
Join Date: 15 April 2010
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Posts: 3,679
Default

d) The police officer has OCD and it is a compulsion.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 01 February 2013, 07:02 AM
Dark Blue's Avatar
Dark Blue Dark Blue is offline
 
Join Date: 26 June 2003
Location: Arizona
Posts: 1,335
Police

A and B are the reasons. C happens where there are two officers making the contact, and the second officer gently taps the car to distract the occupants as the first officer moves into place.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 01 February 2013, 07:08 AM
ganzfeld's Avatar
ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
 
Join Date: 05 September 2005
Location: Kyoto, Japan
Posts: 23,628
Icon07

e) The officer is checking to see if the trunk is hot and therefore possibly hiding radioactive aliens.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 01 February 2013, 04:53 PM
RichardM RichardM is offline
 
Join Date: 27 March 2004
Location: Las Cruces, NM
Posts: 4,511
Default

Given that Dark Blue is a police officer and that what he says is exactly what the city of Sachse police officers told us during our training for Citizens on Patrol or whatever it is called , I think he is 100% correct. Or if this was a sports column, he is 100 and 10% correct.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 01 February 2013, 04:54 PM
Alarm's Avatar
Alarm Alarm is offline
 
Join Date: 26 May 2011
Location: Nepean, ON
Posts: 5,717
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dark Blue View Post
A and B are the reasons. C happens where there are two officers making the contact, and the second officer gently taps the car to distract the occupants as the first officer moves into place.
But wouldn't the fingerprints only stay on the car if it doesn't get washed, rained on, snowed on, repainted...

ETA: I'm not disputing your statement, just wondering about the actual effectiveness of it, given what cars can go through before the perpetrator gets caught.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 01 February 2013, 05:36 PM
Dark Blue's Avatar
Dark Blue Dark Blue is offline
 
Join Date: 26 June 2003
Location: Arizona
Posts: 1,335
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alarm View Post
But wouldn't the fingerprints only stay on the car if it doesn't get washed, rained on, snowed on, repainted...

ETA: I'm not disputing your statement, just wondering about the actual effectiveness of it, given what cars can go through before the perpetrator gets caught.
Yes the prints might not stay on. Yes there are other things that make catching the car and suspect easier and more effective. But it's just one extra piece of evidence that might be there if it's needed. And pushing on the back of the car is just as easy and doesn't take any more time then not so it just kind of becomes a habit.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 01 February 2013, 07:41 PM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 109,650
Ponder

Quote:
Originally Posted by diddy View Post
Which is why I mentioned cameras - though they might not be universal. But I would think that before they actually talk with the driver they do the basics like get a plate number in case they do drive off...
If the plates were stolen and the perpetrators removed or swapped them after getting away, knowing the plate number won't help identify the car.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 02 February 2013, 06:32 AM
mick66 mick66 is offline
 
Join Date: 22 March 2000
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Posts: 161
Default

Actually, it's quite true. I've been watching COPS since it started and more times than not, when an officer is walking up to the car, he makes a very deliberate move to touch the rear of the car... my guess was to "feel" if its running or possibly starting to move...???? Dunno...
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 02 February 2013, 01:55 PM
Dasla's Avatar
Dasla Dasla is offline
 
Join Date: 15 April 2010
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Posts: 3,679
Default

I keep reading the "tap" in the thread title as "tap dance" A tap dancing policeman would "startle the occupant even more then tapping the boot. True tap dancing next time.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 02 February 2013, 03:00 PM
Dasla's Avatar
Dasla Dasla is offline
 
Join Date: 15 April 2010
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Posts: 3,679
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dasla View Post
I keep reading the "tap" in the thread title as "tap dance" A tap dancing policeman would "startle the occupant even more then tapping the boot. True tap dancing next time.
Too late to edit. That should be try tap dancing next time. And I missed the closing " on startle.

But true tap dancing would work better then fake tap dancing.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 02 February 2013, 03:08 PM
Lainie's Avatar
Lainie Lainie is offline
 
Join Date: 29 August 2005
Location: Suburban Columbus, OH
Posts: 74,479
Default

Hijackably, that reminds me of Christopher Walken saying that he learned to dance because all the mothers in his neighborhood sent their kids (boys and girls) to dance school, and adding that most of his childhood friends grew up to be cops, so there must at one time have been a number of NYC cops who could hoof it.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 02 February 2013, 04:22 PM
Plurabelle's Avatar
Plurabelle Plurabelle is offline
 
Join Date: 29 September 2003
Location: Brussels, Belgium (home base: Ann Arbor, MI)
Posts: 1,047
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by crocoduck_hunter View Post
Seriously though, whoever came up with that idea has watched too many Trunk Monkey commercials.
Thank you for bringing the trunk monkey back into my life!
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 02 February 2013, 08:03 PM
videoguy's Avatar
videoguy videoguy is offline
 
Join Date: 11 September 2006
Location: Clarence, NY
Posts: 1,197
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
If the plates were stolen and the perpetrators removed or swapped them after getting away, knowing the plate number won't help identify the car.
Stolen plates or not, recording the plate number can still be helpful.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Louisiana stops sale of cheap milk at market A Turtle Named Mack Social Studies 2 28 January 2013 02:49 PM
WalMart stops selling firearms? snopes Business Bytes 10 18 January 2013 03:06 PM
Obama stops overseas military votes snopes Politics 0 27 October 2010 05:22 PM
Beat police stops with air bag deployment snopes Automobiles 21 24 August 2007 04:23 PM
Okay to follow speeding police cars snopes Automobiles 40 19 June 2007 08:13 PM


All times are GMT. The time now is 09:37 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.